Shell protester vows to continue hunger strike

SHELL-TO-SEA protester Maura Harrington yesterday celebrated her 55th birthday by retiring from her school principal’s job and continuing her hunger strike against Shell’s work on the coastline of Co Mayo.

“Whether I have a chance to reach 56 depends really on Shell and Solitaire,” she said.

Ms Harrington has vowed to continue her protest until the controversial pipe-laying Solitaire ship leaves Irish waters. It was brought to Broadhaven Bay in Co Mayo last week under contract with Shell to lay pipes between the Corrib gas field and the refinery site in Bellanaboy, but later moved to Killybegs after sustaining accidental damage.

A spokesperson for Shell said the ship was in Killybegs while the damage was assessed and any decision on where it subsequently goes will be based on that assessment. “We’re hoping it will be complete over the next couple of days.”

He urged Ms Harrington to end her hunger strike and said that Shell were “very concerned for her health”.

Supporters marched in London yesterday in solidarity with the mother-of-two on the day she retired as principal of Inver National School on the Atlantic Coast, also the seventh day of her hunger strike.

She has spent most of the last week locked in her car outside the Shell compound near Glengad beach in Co Mayo. She insists that she will only end her protest if the Solitaire ship leaves Irish waters.

The campaigner left her car yesterday afternoon to attend the school on her last official working day and a mass was held in the building to mark the occasion, before she returned again to the vehicle.

She would not comment on the previous claims that her protests interfered with her school work.

“After today, that opportunity will be closed down for those who tried to make life extremely difficult for me in the school.”

Neither would she comment on her husband, son or daughter’s views of the hunger strike. “I don’t discuss the family at all.”

The Shell spokesperson said that the company was “open to dialogue” and that a team of community liaison officers was available at any time.

While work on laying pipes between the Corrib gas field and the Rossport refinery site has been suspended because of the damage to the ship, protesters want the Solitaire moved from its current resting place at Killybegs and away from the country.

British supporters of the Shell to Sea campaign demonstrated yesterday afternoon outside the London offices of Allseas Ltd, owners of the Solitaire, and then marched to the Irish Embassy at Grosvenor Place.

A solidarity protest also took place outside Shell’s Irish headquarters in Dublin yesterday afternoon.

Ms Harrington insisted yesterday that her protest will end in one of two ways — written confirmation that the Solitaire has left Irish waters or her death.

The 54 year old says that she weighs less than seven stone and has had calcified TB since 1980.

In letters to Shell and to the master of the Solitaire she said that, given her age, weight and medical history, her death will take place “relatively quickly but not painlessly”.

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